Thursday, June 30, 2016

A New Devotion on Cove's Prayer Line - What God Has Done

Below is a new devotion I just left on the Cove Presbyterian Church prayer line. You can find a recording of this devotion on the prayer line (1-304-748-7900) or on the Cove Presbyterian Church Podbean page. 

If you find this devotion meaningful, please consider supporting this ministry by sending an offering to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal. And no contribution is too small.

Romans 8:1-8

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law - indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

What God Has Done

I don’t see any problem with people feeling a sense of self-satisfaction with the job that they do. Although I understand how it’s easy for satisfaction to become pride and for pride to become arrogance, still, life is a whole lot better when we get some pleasure out of the work we do. In fact, just a few day’s ago I shared a quote from J.M. Barrie, the creator of Peter Pan, "Nothing is really work unless you would rather be doing something else." For me it seems pretty obvious, if what you do offers genuine satisfaction, I can’t imagine wanting to do anything else.

But I’ll tell you, there’s one thing from which I don’t think we can or should derive any kind of self-satisfaction, and now I’m talking the salvation we receive from God. You see, it’s through the death of Jesus Christ, something that happened almost two thousand years before we were born, that we’ve been set from both sin and death. And it was because of his resurrection that we have the assurance of a resurrected life in the future and the possibility of living a genuine, fulfilling life right now. All this has already been done, and we can choose to respond and that response will be based on the value we place on what God has done.

The Sermon Preached at the Memorial Service for Betty Kraina

Below is a copy of the sermon I preached on Wednesday, June 29, in Cove Presbyterian Church, Weirton, West Virginia. You can find a podcast of the whole service on the Cove Podbean page. 

Now, over the last few days, I've been thinking a lot about Betty Kraina and in particular, about what I could share with you this morning. Now, I know y'all have all kinds of memories. Certainly, the family, and I'm talking about Annette and Jodi and Carol and John and all the grandkids and great grandkids, man, I know y'all have all kinds of incredibly special things that y'all remember, some of which you shared just a few minutes ago. And if there's anybody here this morning who had Betty as a teacher, I'm sure y'all have some things you could share. And since Betty was what I'd call a pillar around this congregation, I know some of the folks here have their own histories with Betty. And me, well, I'm really a new-comer, because I knew Betty for only about nine years. Therefore, when compared with y'all, I know that my memories don't go back very far.

And so, as I thought about what I might say, I really wanted it to reflect the Betty I knew, maybe something that none of y’all know. And even though I thought about a lot of spiritual stuff, you know about her dedication to God and faith in Jesus Christ and loyalty to her church, all of which was real and important and certainly true, well, that sounded kind of like the kind of stuff you'd expect a minister to say at a funeral, and doing the predictable and expected, man, I don't think that's what Betty would have wanted. And so I was kind of struggling about what I could possibly share, that is until Monday. And I'll tell you, as I was driving up to Robinson, somewhere around the airport exit, it suddenly hit me, something that I knew about Betty that y’all didn’t. And here it is: Betty Kraina, my dear sister in Christ, loved to talk. And topic of conversation really didn't matter, she just loved to talk about anything and I'll tell you, she had an opinion about everything. And although I know that might drive some people nuts, for me, it was wonderful. And I say that for a very practical reason.

Y'all may not know this, but I'm a teacher; in fact, in the Presbyterian Church, ministers are called Teaching Elders, and I bet I had Betty in classes I taught almost three hundred times. For example, we used to have this Thursday Bible Study, and when she could hitch a ride with Bonnie and Red, Betty would be there. And Karen and then Susie would bring her to the history-related classes I taught through the Academy of Lifelong Learning. If she could be, Betty would be there. Now, when I teach, I really don't lecture. Instead I ask questions; therefore, for my class to go well, I need people to give answers. If not, the class dies. You see where I'm going? Betty always had something to say. And usually she was right on point. Of course, occasionally she be a little ahead of where I wanted to be, especially in the Bible Studies. You see, Betty couldn't see well enough to read and so having a Bible in front of her really didn't help her. Instead, she'd listen to the scripture we were discussing before class, you know, on tape, and then she'd have to remember the details of the text. And so, sometimes she kind of jumped the gun. And as most of y'all know, Betty had some pretty definite opinions that would come out, sometimes as little comments that you kind of heard off to the side. Let's just say, when I was teaching a group about the nature of socialism and communism, I heard a lot of those little comments. But you know, it was amazing, whatever it was, whatever she said, nine times out of ten, it really moved the discussion forward. And you could tell, she really wanted to learn. And she was a great sport when something she said was a little off base. Now, for me, that was Betty Kraina.

But of course, like I said, I know all of y'all have your own memories. And I'll tell you, I think it's really important to hold on to them as tightly as we can, and I'll tell you why. Right now, we're facing a time of separation. That's all it is, just a time of separation. You see, God has already led Betty through the valley of the shadow of death and in her next conscious moment, Paul says it's like the twinkling of an eye, she'll be in a new heaven and a new earth. And she'll be with her parents and her sister and that guy she said was really good looking when she showed me his picture in his uniform. Now she'll be there, probably offering her opinion to Jesus about how things could be run better. You see, in her next conscious moment, Betty will be in a place where there's no pain and no death and no parting. That's her reality. But of course, it's not ours, not now; man, we're still here. Now, don't get me wrong, since God is in control and our destinies are in his hands, I believe the time will come when it will be true for us just like it is for her, but for now, we're here, trusting that God has a place for us and hoping that we'll see those who've gone on ahead of us. And that trust and hope, well, that's really the best we can do. Remember, in Hebrews it says, "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." And Paul wrote, "For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience." You see, right now, we're facing a time of separation.

And I'll tell you, that's why I think it's so important to remember, to remember the lives of everybody who's gone ahead of us, and this morning, to remember the life our sister Betty. And it's important to tell the stories, something that I know y'all have been doing and hope will continue to do. And please don't forget the funny ones, even if they involve bent guard rails and vases that were intended to hold something other than flowers. You see, this is the stuff we need to be doing. And I'll tell you why. Every time we tell a story, every time we share a memory, and every time we incorporate into our lives something that made Betty special to everybody who knew her, we're keeping her alive, and I'm talking about in our hearts and minds.

And for me, that means I'm going to remember how Betty loved to talk, but also how she loved to smile and how, regardless of what she was feeling, I'm telling you, she always had something kind to say. Now that's some of the stuff I'll remember. As a matter of fact I don't think I'll ever again teach a class without thinking about and missing Betty. But the memories are all here. And they are for you too. And so, as we wade through this time of separation, let's all remember, so that she'll stay alive within us, until we see her again.

Growing in Grace: A Study of Genesis - Joseph and His Brothers (37:1...

Growing in Grace: A Study of Genesis - Joseph and His Brothers (37:1...: Below is the passage we discussed during the thirteenth session in "A Study of Genesis." This 16-session series considers the narr...

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Happenings Around the Presbytery - June 29, 2016

Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery
907 National Road
Wheeling, WV  26003

Office Hours: Monday through Thursday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
In an emergency after office hours: Call 740-359-1813

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Marie Luckhardt
Karen Edwards
Ed & Dorothy Mooney
Leura Nancy Macon
Ronald Wolf
Jack Visser
Nancy Mountz
David Brocklehurst
Bob & Sue Shearer
Ed Rudiger
R. H. “Mac” McCuen
All our service men & women
Ginny Zoric
Dakota Partnership
Alberta & Hopa Crawford

Domasi Partnership
Malawi food crisis

Please keep us informed of any prayer concerns you may have.
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PRAYER FOR UOVP PASTORS: Select one of these pastors and remember him/her in your prayers this week: Erica Harley, John Harris, Bob Haseltine, Sue Haseltine, Joe Hendricks.
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THE PRESBYTERY OFFICE will be closed the week of July 4. In an emergency, please call the Rev. Bill Webster 740-359-1813. There will be no Happenings next week.
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ON BEHALF of the Presbytery, I would like to thank the Yellow Creek congregation for hosting the June meeting of Presbytery. I know the effort it takes to provide a meal and to make sure everything is in order. Well done! Peace, Reverend Robert Nagy, Moderator of the Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery
GREETINGS to the Congregation of Yellow Creek Presbyterian Church, On behalf of the Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery, I thank you for not only volunteering to host our Presbytery Meeting last evening but for doing it perfectly! You did a splendid job! I know, as having host a meeting that a great deal of planning and preparation goes into hosting this event. And I am so grateful for the time, effort and hard work you invested in making our gathering so successful last evening. Due to a pastor issue at my church, I was unable to attend the meeting. But having heard reports from various attenders, I am so thankful to you for opening up your facilities to us. Your hard work was most appreciated for the accommodations were perfect. The arrangements were wonderful. Your warm and generous hospitality was welcoming. Your generosity in providing a space for the meeting, and of course for the delicious food which was so graciously served at dinner, was so greatly appreciated by all in attendance. Your hospitality is a tribute to your love of Jesus Christ. Your support of and to our Presbytery is a true blessing to us all. May the Lord our GOD continue to richly bless you just as you have so richly blessed us. Thank you! Peace, Reverend William Webster, Administrator U.O.V.P.
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MARK YOUR CALENDAR: A STORY TELLING WORKSHOP will be held Saturday, September 17, 2016, at Cove Presbyterian Church, Weirton, WV, sponsored by our Peacemaking Committee. The workshop will be led by Robin Moore, outstanding storyteller, performer, Viet Nam vet, teacher, and novelist. A flyer and bulletin insert will be sent out soon.
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PLEASANT HILL PRESBYTERIAN Church, 3279 State Route 213, Steubenville, OH, invites you to join in their 150th anniversary celebration on Sunday, July 17, 2016, during their 10:00 a.m. worship service. Featured will be special music during the service by Carl and Nancy Koontz. A luncheon will be served after worship. Everyone is invited!
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OUR HEARTS AND PRAYERS go out to the people of southern West Virginia in the wake of catastrophic flooding and loss of life. Presbyterian Disaster Assistance has deployed its National Response Team members at the invitation of the West Virginia Presbytery, and they will be working with Presbyterian communities and other response organizations in the affected area to support emergency response, assessment, spiritual care, and short and long term recovery.
GIVE: To share your financial blessings, you can send a check payable to Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery marked for WV flooding DR000191. We will send it on. If you prefer to mail a check to PCUSA, you may send it to: Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), PO Box 643700, Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700 marked DR000191 WV flooding. Or you can text PDA to 20222 to donate $10. You may also call PCUSA Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (ET), at 1-800-872-3283 and donate by phone.
ACT: To make clean up kits and info for mailing them, go to Some groups prefer to take a special offering to support a kit project. The value for each type of kit is given so you or your group can financially support purchase of kit contents. Checks made out to Presbyterian Church (USA) and marked with “Gift of the Heart DR000151” can be mailed to: Presbyterian Church (USA), PO Box 643700, Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700.
PRAY: Please pray for those who suffered loss of loved ones and for those who are working tirelessly to provide rescue, humanitarian aid, and spiritual and psychological support.
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July 2 ~
Ed Rudiger,
July 4 ~
July 4 ~
Philip Keevil,
July 11 ~
Rick Stanley,
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THE 222ND GENERAL ASSEMBLY elected its first Co-Moderators, Reverends T. Denise Anderson and Jan Edmiston, and a new Stated Clerk, Reverend J. Herbert Nelson. We welcome them to their new offices and join in prayer for them.
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IF YOU BORROWED our easel [that is used with a giant newsprint tablet] and are finished using it, please return it.
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PRESBYTERIAN MISSION Compassion, Peace, and Justice Newsletter, “Educate a Child and Justice & Peace Close up” click here.
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UNION PRESBYTERIAN SEMINARY June, 2016, newsletter: Click here.
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START WITH GOOD NEWS: Rediscovering the Why of Evangelism will be held September 27-29, 2016, at Union Presbyterian Seminary, Richmond, VA. Four keynote speakers representing traditional church settings, new worshipping communities, missional communities, and social justice activism will help you reimagine what evangelism looks like for a post-Christendom church in the 21st century. While individual attendees will certainly benefit from this experience, you are encouraged to attend with a team of clergy and lay leaders from your congregation. Registration: $25 (up to a maximum of $100 per church). Cost includes lunch on Tuesday and Wednesday. For more info and to register:
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POGO XX: Our Presbyterian Open Golf Outing [#20] will begin with a shotgun start at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, August 1st, at the Spring Hills Golf Course, East Springfield, OH. Fee: $40 per golfer (Includes green fees, cart, prizes, and dinner). RSVP by Monday, July 25, to Sam Gibb 814-657-1267 or or the First Westminster Office 740-282-4591. Foursomes, please.
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From New Cumberland, First ~ God always knows what we are thinking and feeling:

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PRAYER PARTNERS: You will find the most up to date prayer partner list [July 1, 2016, through December 31, 3016] on our website Click on “Prayer Partners” in the top blue box. Your prayer partner is the church on the same line across from your church in this file. The purpose is to get to know each other better and to pray for one another by sharing joys and concerns in a more personal way. You should contact that congregation and get acquainted and find out about their prayer concerns and share those with your congregation in your bulletin and/or newsletter. We know the power of prayer, and we know that many times God shows His will for us through others, so let’s pray together.
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JULY PRAYER REQUESTS are on our website under Spotlight and in the calendar.
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PRESBYTERIAN HISTORICAL Society June newsletter is on our website in under Items of Interest.
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PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF CADIZ plans to hire a secretary. Successful candidate must have working knowledge of Microsoft Office, ability to manage several tasks at one time; ability to handle sensitive matters; coordinate calendar. 32-hour work week. Submit resume to 154 W. Market Street, Cadiz, OH  43907.
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BEAVER CREEK Camp info can be found on their website
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PEACE & GLOBAL WITNESS OFFERING. Learn about this transformation of the Peacemaking Offering at; then ask your session to approve it. It will be received during the Season of Peace, which ends on World Communion Sunday, October 2. Call PDS at 800-524-2612 to order materials.
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OUR BACKDOOR off the parking lot is locked at 4:00 p.m. daily for the summer as our building custodians are on their summer hours. If you are coming to the Presbytery Office after 4:00 p.m., call Patty 304-232-3490 when you arrive in the parking lot and she will come down and let you in. If it goes to answering machine, she may be on the other line. You could try the door to the Vance Office. Or if you just need to drop in for a short time, out front on National Road you can park under the big green awning where there are four handicapped spaces and walk up the sidewalk to our brown wooden door.
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PRESBYTERY MINUTES. Once they have been approved, presbytery minutes will be available by e-mail to all ministers, CREs, and RE commissioners upon request.
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IF YOU ARE A RULING ELDER who God might be calling to preach or become more involved in pastoral service, Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery, along with Redstone and Washington Presbyteries, will be beginning a new training program for the preparation of Commissioned Ruling Elders and/or pulpit supply preachers. Starting in the Fall of 2016, the program is designed to be both classroom and hands-on experiences. You will receive training and mentorship that will help you grow as a leader in Christ's Church. For more information, control+click here.
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THE NEW WILMINGTON MISSION CONFERENCE, July 23-30, 2016, meets in scenic New Wilmington, PA, just one hour north of Pittsburgh. We gather on the campus of Westminster College for a week of worship, learning, and service. Annually, more than 30 states and 30 countries are represented at this multigenerational mission conference with scholars and missionaries from around the globe. There is programming for all ages – infant through adult. You can bring the whole family. There are hands on service projects and opportunities for a select group of young adults to participate in a short-term mission scholarship experience. Visit the for speakers, schedules, program details, and more information.
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A WORKSHOP for pastors on teenage depression and suicide will be held Tuesday, August 30, 2016, at the House of the Carpenter, 200 S. Front Street (Wheeling Island), Wheeling, WV. Registration is at 9:30 a.m. with the workshop running from 10:00 a.m. to Noon. There is no cost for the workshop. They ask that you reserve a spot by calling Mike or Michelle at the House of the Carpenter @ 304-233-4640 or by email to The workshop will be led by the Rev. Gary Nelson who is an author, counselor, and nationally recognized speaker and authority on teenager depression and the effects that lead to suicide.
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FAITHFUL WOMEN’S CONFERENCE“God Mends Broken Hearts” will be held Saturday, September 10, 2016, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Paris Presbyterian Church, 127 Steubenville Pike, Paris (Burgettstown), PA. This event is for ladies of all walks of faith and is a wonderful day of renewing your hope. Tickets are $20.00.This price includes the conference and lunch. Lunch is a boxed lunch provided by Marge's Catering and it includes your choice of Ham and Cheddar or Turkey and Swiss Croissant Sandwich or a Veggie Wrap, macaroni salad, banana, and a cookie. When you purchase your tickets you can choose you lunch sandwich. Tickets are now on sale. There is a limited amount of seating and tickets must be purchased by September 1st. Tickets can be purchased by calling PPC at 724-729-3450 or stopping in to the office. Office hours are 9-3 Monday thru Friday. More details will be made available about purchasing tickets soon. For more info, call PPC at 724-729-3450 or on Facebook at Parish Presbyterian Church. A flyer can be found on our website under Items of Interest.
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“HUMAN TRAFFICKING: IDENTIFYING THOSE AT RISK” workshop will be held Thursday, September 15, 2016, 9:00 a.m. to Noon at the House of the Carpenter, 200 S. Front St., Wheeling, WV, on the 3rd floor. If you think it can’t happen here…. think again! All clergy are invited to learn who is at risk in their community and what they can do to stop an individual from being a statistic!
·        Human trafficking is a $150 billion industry annually for organized crime.
·        Human trafficking is modern day slavery.
·        Each year over 2 million women and children are sold into slavery, and within the U.S. over 300,000 annually.
·        Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world, second only to the drug trade.
·        Victims of sex trafficking can be girls or boys, women or men.
Guest Speaker and former Human Trafficking Survivor Jennifer Kempton will tell her story and educate clergy about who is “at risk” and what we can be do to keep individuals in our communities safe from predators! Clergy please register by calling Mike or Michelle at (304) 233-4640. While this workshop is for clergy, if a lay person would like to attend in place of or with their pastor, this will be okay. We want churches to be able to recognize those most vulnerable and sometimes the laity see it more than the pastors. A flyer can be found on our website under Items of Interest.
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The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for June 29, 2016

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for June 29, 2016: Today our passages are 2 Kings 15:1–16:20; Acts 19:13-41; Psalm 147:1-20; and Proverbs 18:4-5 . The readings are from  The Messag...

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A New Devotion on Cove's Prayer Line - The Value of Words and Actions

Below is a new devotion I just left on the Cove Presbyterian Church prayer line. You can find a recording of this devotion on the prayer line (1-304-748-7900) or on the Cove Presbyterian Church Podbean page. 

If you find this devotion meaningful, please consider supporting this ministry by sending an offering to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal. And no contribution is too small.

Matthew 21:23-32

"What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work in the vineyard today.' He answered, 'I will not'; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, 'I go, sir'; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

The Value of Words and Actions

For as long as I remember, parents have been accused of saying, “Do what I say, not what I do.” Now, I’ve got to admit, I can’t remember a time my mom or dad said that to me or I said it to my daughter. But even though I may have never said it, I’m sure I’ve demonstrated it. I mean, I have no doubt that there have been times when I told her to do or not do something that later I did or didn’t do. And I’m sure that I’ve made promises, commitments that I failed to keep either because of faulty memory or weak intentions. Of course, I don’t think that applies just to me. Within our world there appears to a real separation between what we say and do, between what we condemn in others and allow for ourselves, between the promises we make and our willingness to follow through. I mean, people, even Christians, seem to be pretty fast and loose in how the words they use relate to the work they do. And I think that’s a real problem.

And I also believe that Jesus would agree, because that’s really what he was getting at in the little parable we just read. I mean, although the one who said “‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went” came closer to the desires of the father than the one who said, “‘I go, sir’; but he did not go”; when you get right down to it, neither actually did the will of the Father, because God wants our actions reflected in our words and our words to reflect our actions. I guess the bottom-line is this: when taken together, our words and actions have meaning only when they reflect the same thing.

Flooding in West Virginia

The following information was posted on West Virginia Presbytery’s website:

On June 24:

As you know WV is in the middle of a disaster. Many of you have already begun to pray and to consider just how you might help our brothers, sisters and neighbors in need.

There are a couple of specific needs we have currently and will work to keep you informed of other needs as they arise.

1. If you have pastoral care training... we have a critical need for pastoral care in White Sulphur Springs and in Richwood and Alderson. We have Presbyterian Disaster Assistance National Team members on the way to help. However, there is so much to do that we are currently scheduling shifts. If you can spare a day or two or three and would be willing to be a part of our schedule, please email Barbara Chalfant at missions@wvpresbytery.organd she will call you to give you more information and to get you working!

2. If you have done assessments before we need you. We are putting one volunteer with a highly trained volunteer/professional and will be doing property assessments as soon as the water recedes. We will be scheduling volunteers for the next week. If you would like to volunteer, please email Barbara Chalfant at

3. We need a car. We have a congregation whose beloved church secretary lost her car in the flood. Literally... lost the car... it floated away. We need a car to borrow for a couple of weeks. But we need it as soon as possible. Got one? Contact Steve Hopta 1-304-320-1572.

4. There is a volunteer registry for individuals and groups through Volunteer WV. For a direct link click here...

5. You can always, always give money. We are going to need an extraordinary amount! Donations may be sent to the Presbytery of WV, 520 South Charleston, WV 25303. This will help us cover the cost of pastoral care and assessment volunteers and will go to WVMAW who is our long-term recovery arm of our ministry. WVMAW is already at work! For more information about WVMAW click here....

6. Pray: The Governor has declared 44 of our 55 counties disaster areas. The heaviest damage at this point has been sustained in Clay, Nicholas, Fayette, Greenbrier, and Kanawha. Several vital food pantries have been damaged or destroyed. Shelters and emergency centers are up and running or about to be opened as close as we can get to the need. Water, clean-up kits, shower and wash trucks and all other supplies are being directed through WVVOAD. Our own WVMAW is at work with chainsaws, mops and buckets in homes they had hoped to be finished repairing!

7. About Gathering Supplies: We will need help of all kinds and supplies but... wait till we know what we need and where. Having a warehouse of supplies in the wrong place is a disaster we do not need. So raise funds and keep listening to the news but do not pack your car with water, used clothes and volunteers and drive to the flood area. Let us get organized first and then we will absolutely need you!

8. Pray some more: For the families who have no home, for those who do not yet know where their loved ones are, for those who wait for the cadaver dog teams to come, for those who can see home but cannot get there, for those who worry waiting for the phone to ring, for those who are working rescue, for those who are organizing and trying to keep all the right things happening so everyone can be safe and dry. Just keep praying!

On June 25:

We have news from Stephen Baldwin at Ronceverte
Several members of RPC had their homes destroyed in floods. We are hosting a WVMAW group. We are sending out a cleanup team from church to help neighbors. Our church & manse had minimal water damage. We are changing scope of remaining summer work camp groups to do flood relief. We are having worship this week as a community prayer service. We delivered many truck/van loads of supplies to area shelters for victims of flooding. We need supplies (paper products, cleaning supplies, diapers, formula) or funds to buy supplies. We need prayers. We need more volunteers for cleanup.

Nancy Bulla reported...
I have spent last two days at the Methodist Church in White Sulphur Springs - removed most of those people to Rhema in Fairlea. Stewart Farley and I are in communication with each other. There are many helping and taking shifts. Rupert has had a very tough time. Caldwell is fairly wiped out. No roads. There are people who saw houses hit the bridge in White Sulphur Springs and explode- we saw cars carried by raging water; one had five people in it screaming for help.

Please pray for all those who have seen too much and who are fiercely moving forward even in the face of this tragedy.

We have a team of PDA members here on the ground in WV and another team that will land on Monday afternoon. We have pastors and educators calling and emailing in from NC, VA, KY and beyond offering to come and listen, pray and walk with those in crisis. It a gift to be a part of such a wonderful connectional church!

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for June 28, 2016

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for June 28, 2016: Today our passages are 2 Kings 13:1–14:29; Acts 18:23–19:12; Psalm 146:1-10; and Proverbs 18:2-3 . The readings are from  The Mes...

Monday, June 27, 2016

Sunday's Sermon – Carrying the Mantle

Below is a copy of the sermon I preached on Sunday, June 26, in Two Ridges Presbyterian Church, Wintersville, Ohio and Cove Presbyterian Church, Weirton, West Virginia. You can find a podcast of this sermon on the Cove Podbean page. 

If you find this sermon meaningful, please consider supporting this ministry by sending an offering to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.

2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14

Now when the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, "Stay here; for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel." But Elisha said, "As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you." So they went down to Bethel.

Then Elijah said to him, "Stay here; for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan." But he said, "As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you." So the two of them went on. Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground.

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, "Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you." Elisha said, "Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit." He responded, "You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not." As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha kept watching and crying out, "Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!" But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.

He picked up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. He took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, saying, "Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?" When he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over.

Carrying the Mantle

A little earlier this month, Donald Trump said something that I found kind of interesting, especially in light of the passage we just read. In a speech he gave in Briarcliff Manor, NY, after winning the delegates he needs to get the nomination, he said, “You’ve given me the honor to lead the Republican Party to victory this fall... I understand the responsibility of carrying the mantle and I will never ever let you down.”

Now, before anyone assumes that I’m making some kind of political statement, you know, one that might cause you to say either “yah boy” or “oh no,” just cool your jets, because I’m really not. No, it wasn’t his politics or promises that caught my attention, rather it was his choice of words, in particular, the use of the word of “mantle.” Now, in case you don’t know what he was talking about, let me tell you up front, this kind of mantle isn’t the place where “the stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.” No, a mantle, at least in the way it’s used in the Bible, is this kind of wool poncho that offered a little added protection from the elements. But more importantly, this garment kind of thing also became a sign of authority, even spiritual power. And I’ll tell you, that’s why, in Eastern Orthodox churches, bishops still wear mantles, that look like these long capes that are wore around the neck and that go all the way to the floor.

Of course, when Donald Trump used the term, he wasn’t talking about his wardrobe. Instead he was referring to what it means symbolically, in other words, that he now has the opportunity and responsibility to carry the mantle, the authority, the power of the Republican party into the fall election. You see, because of his victories in the primaries, that mantle has fallen to him.

And I’ll tell you, the same kind of thing happened in the passage we just read from Second Kings. I mean, in these verses, Elijah’s mantle, his outer garment, his poncho fell to Elisha. And since this mantle represented a whole lot more than a piece of cloth, it’s not surprising that it happened right after “Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you’, [and] Elisha said, ‘Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.’” You see, as Elijah went up in a “...chariot of fire and horses of fire ...and ...a whirlwind into heaven”, the author of Second Kings wrote that Elisha “...picked up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan.”

You see, it was right here that Elijah’s authority, his spiritual power was transferred to Elisha. It would now be his responsibility to carry it into the world. Of course, this wasn’t the first time Elisha had dealt with Elijah’s mantle. I mean, right after Elijah’s encounter with God on Mount Horeb, this is what happened: “So [Elijah] set out from there, and found Elisha son of Shaphat, who was ploughing. ...Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle over him. He left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, ‘Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.’ Then Elijah said to him, ‘Go back again; for what have I done to you?’ ...Then he set out and followed Elijah, and became his servant.” You see, that mantle had already changed Elisha’s life. And now, it confirmed the authority and power to change the lives of others.

And we can be confident that it still was able to do this kind of thing, because of what happened. You see, Elisha “...took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, saying, ‘Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?’ When he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over.” Now remember, a little earlier in the passage the same thing happened with Elijah: “Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground.” Now that’s what happened. And I’ll tell you something else, remember how Elisha asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit? Well, if you compare the miracles done by both men as they wore the same mantle, Elijah accomplished sixteen and Elisha, just take a guess, thirty-two. You see, the power and the authority represented by that mantle, that piece of cloth, fell from Elijah and Elisha had the opportunity to carry it into the world. And I’ll tell you, that’s exact what he did.

And you know, I believe that same mantle has fallen to us. You see, we have the same opportunity that Elisha had. And the mantle that’s fallen to us, I’m telling you, it still confers power and authority, and I’m talking about spiritual power and authority. I mean, just remember what Jesus Christ told his disciples before the crucifixion. He said, “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” And what would be the basis for this power? A little later Jesus said, “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. ...But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate, [the Holy Spirit] will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because they do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.” You see, it’s through the Spirit we have authority.

And it’s through the Spirit that we have power. It’s like Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” And to the Galatians, he wrote, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.” I’m telling you, this is the presence that surrounds us and fills us all the time. This is the divine gift that enables us to trust God’s love and God’s grace. Brothers and sisters, this is the mantle that has fallen to us, the same one that fell to Elisha, a source of authority and power.

And all we have to do is to pick it up and carry it into the world. You see, all we have to do is to recognize the gift, to accept the love and the grace that God showed to us almost two thousand years before we were born and to claim that presence that both surrounds and fills us all the time. And this we can do right here and right now. And then, empowered by that mantle, empowered by that Spirit, I believe as sure as I’m standing here, we’re going to see two things happen.

First, we’re going to be changed. I mean, just like Elijah’s mantle defined Elisha and moved him to stop following the plough and to start following the one from whom he found real meaning, I’m telling you, the same thing will happen to us. Now I want you to notice that I didn’t say “might” or “could”; I said will. You see, when we choose to look through eyes that have been opened by God’s Spirit, we will be changed. I mean, more and more we’re going to see God working all around us. And more and more we’re going to see his presence in situations that the world will call hardships. In fact, we might even come to see troubles as learning experiences, sort of what Paul was getting at when he wrote, “since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” I’ll tell you, when we pick up that mantle we can’t help but be changed. That’s one thing that’ll happen.

And second, together, filled with God’s authority and power, we can step out and change the world around us, just like both Elijah and Elisha did thousands of years ago. Of course, how we do that will be different depending on what God has equipped us to do. I mean, again like Paul wrote, “We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.” But, you know, even though how we each do it may be different, the goal is always, and I mean, always the same. It’s always to challenge people to do two things: to “‘ the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” That’s it. That’s exactly what we’ve been called to do, because if we see this as our mission, we will be making disciples of all nations. You see, just like Elisha carried Elijah’s mantle into his world, we can move into ours with the same the authority and power.

Now, according to Donald Trump, he’ll be carrying the Republican mantle into the fall election. But just so no one assumes that’s this is in any way a partisan statement, former Secretary Hillary Clinton will be doing the same thing for the Democrats and former Governor Gary Johnson for the Libertarians and former Township Tax Assessor Jim Hedges for the Prohibitionists. How’s that for being non-partisan? Still the mantles they carry convey a lot less authority and power than the one that fell to Elisha and the one that falls to us. You see, our mantle is empowered by the Holy Spirit of God and when we pick it up, it will change us and the world around us. Now, that’s the mantle we carry.